It seems that more and more doctors are offering antidepressants to their patients even if they do not show signs of depression. They offer them for headaches, gloominess, and fatigue, factors which can be caused by many things, not necessarily by depression. According to researches, the practice is very common especially in the case of men and women over the age of 50.
Too many prescriptions
It seems that 4 out of 5 prescriptions contain antidepressants, which are very powerful, and which do not have any influence whatsoever on the condition of the patients. On top of that, the majority of the doctors who write these prescriptions are not even trained in psychiatry. According to a study published in Health Affairs, this summer, the antidepressants are the third most commonly prescribed type of drugs in the United States of America, after painkillers and cholesterol-lowering drugs. The study also stated that the antidepressants are the most expensive kind of drugs, costing the health care system around $11 billion each year.
The drugs are efficient, but only for certain conditions, such as chronic or clinical depression, and various types of anxiety disorders. Mark Olfson, M.D., a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, and a coauthor of the study, stated that there are numerous people who take these drugs for the wrong reasons. He also stated that it is very difficult to prove that they are helpful, when they are used to treat less severe problems. The study used information collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They analyzed more than 230,000 visits to doctors who were not psychiatrists.
They discovered that 73 percent of the drug prescriptions for antidepressants were written for patients who did not suffer of depression, or who never had a history of depression. In 1996, the number of such prescriptions was of 60 percent. In comparison to 1996, when 30 percent of the doctors prescribed those drugs, nowadays 55 of them prescribe them. It seems that the large majority of doctors prescribed these drugs to white women over 50 who suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, or other medical problems.
Unwanted side effects
Dilip Jeste, M.D., a psychiatrist of the University of California in San Diego, stated that the conclusion of the study is very important. He stated that there are numerous doctors, who easily prescribe antidepressants to their patients, which is considered off-label prescribing. He stated that it is not illegal for a doctor to do so, but his/her decision could have unwanted results because the antidepressants are very powerful and thus can have numerous unwanted side effects.
They can cause sleep problems, weight gain, high blood pressure, dizziness, and others. The main problem is that these side effects are the most powerful in the case of the elders, and in the majority of the cases, doctors prescribe antidepressants for them. Olfson stated that doctors should be more careful when they prescribe these drugs, and that they should try to distinguish between depression and other conditions which are similar to it.